Sunday, December 12, 2010


It has been over 12 years since my favourite comfort-movie released. Every time I feel a bit put out about something, I watch shopgirl and NY152 talk about New York, Joni Mitchell and The Godfather, and I am transported to my happy place. Few romantic comedies are as intelligent, witty and have aged this well (of course, some of the greatest genre-defining rom-coms were born in the 90s, so naturally, the Great 90s Rom-com Tradition has become a formula). It is also easily the best Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie. And no, I thoughtSleepless in Seattle was a rubbish movie—the dialogue was bland and precocious children annoy me intensely. Don't even get me started on Joe versus the Volcano.

*Some* feel that YGM hasn’t aged very well—partly because Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks aren’t cool anymore (My Mom’s New Boyfriend? That awful haircut in Angels and Demons? Bah).

And they love looking down on this movie and its naïve idea that love can be found in an internet chat room. And they have a point. Having an actual conversation with somebody about life and sorrow and heartache via chat? Permit me to doubt. More likely you’ll receive messages like “HEY BABEZ WANNA CYBER??///?” or “PIX PLZ GOT WEBCAM?” Plus, there is no mystery any more on the internet—you can’t maintain that distant, enigmatic persona. You cant just talk about the nothings any more. People just lose interest and move on to somebody who is willing to add them on Facebook. Or at least show some boob on webcam. Imagine shopgirl wandering into 4chan on her birthday, but instead of falling in love, she gets “UR A HO GTFO”. And then her address and phone number are published on 4chan message boards, and she starts getting death threats and she eventually has to move out of her dreamy little apartment in the Upper East Side. Lolz.

Okay fine, the idea of falling in love on the internet is just silly. But YGM is so much more than a 90s movie about internet romance. For starters, it is one of the greatest tributes to Pride and Prejudice. We never dare to date outside our comfortable little circle, we love pigeon-holing people and then rejecting them based on those preconceived notions. And yet, Frank Navasky, the self-proclaimed champion of typewriters and underdogs found love in the form of a Republican. He JUST couldn’t help himself! Kathleen managed to get past the fact that she was Shop Around the Corner and Joe was Fox Books, and found love too, and they probably never fought about which video to rent on a Saturday night.

Also, I don't know if anybody else has noticed this, but I got the feeling that Birdie and Kathleen’s mother, Cecilia Kelly were lovers. The evidence: Well, Birdie’s super rich (she bought Intel at 6!) and yet, she continues to work in Cecilia's store; she is a sort of surrogate mother to Kathleen; she wears a picture of Cecilia on her locket and clearly speaks to her whenever she’s troubled. Now obviously this doesn't prove anything-- one can never second guess the woman who had an affair with Generalissimo Franco, but I want to believe that's how it happened. It makes Kathleen’s character more interesting and the legend of the amazing Cecilia Kelly is explained, a little. But then, all the characters in the movie are just as interesting, well developed and completely un-cardboard cutout. Even the evil Fox Books magnate Schuyler Fox, The Enemy of the Mid-list Novel, is an endearing old man, who once wrote (love?) letters to an enchanting woman.

But at the heart of it all, YGM is about the inevitability of change. No, change is not always a good thing, and never when it happens to us. We set up the Village Green Preservation Societies and Skyscraper Condemnation Affiliates and Custard Pie Appreciation Consortiums, but time marches on regardless. I remember Premier Bookshop in Bangalore, with its tottering towers of books; a maze of a place that only the kindly old man who ran it knew his way around. I still have the first book I bought there some 17 years ago, and every book thereafter. It closed down about a year ago, and I was devastated. In the already-alien landscape of Bangalore, I had lost another familiar sight. Which is why I weep with Kathleen every single time, when she sadly looks around her empty store, reliving all those memories and feeling like a part of her has died. But, like her, we too find our catharsis in the children’s section of the Fox Books store, and come to terms with change and realize that perhaps it may just be the chance for a new beginning.

If you missed this movie for the last 12 years because your cave didn't have a plug point, or if you haven't seen it in years, go watch it NOW! Because, YGM, you are a lone reed, standing tall, waving boldly in the formulaic sands of mainstream Hollywood rom-coms.

1 comment:

  1. you know, i COMPLETELY agree about Sleepless in Seattle - what a ridiculously overrated movie !